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puz·​zle ˈpə-zəl How to pronounce puzzle (audio)
puzzled; puzzling ˈpə-zə-liŋ How to pronounce puzzle (audio)

transitive verb

: to offer or represent to (someone) a problem difficult to solve or a situation difficult to resolve : challenge mentally
also : to exert (oneself, one's mind, etc.) over such a problem or situation
they puzzled their wits to find a solution
archaic : complicate, entangle
: to solve with difficulty or ingenuity
puzzle out an answer to a riddle

intransitive verb

: to be uncertain as to action or choice
: to attempt a solution of a puzzle by guesswork or experiment
puzzle over the mystery
ˈpə-zə-lər How to pronounce puzzle (audio)


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: the state of being puzzled : perplexity
: something that puzzles
: a question, problem, or contrivance designed for testing ingenuity
Choose the Right Synonym for puzzle


puzzle, perplex, bewilder, distract, nonplus, confound, dumbfound mean to baffle and disturb mentally.

puzzle implies existence of a problem difficult to solve.

the persistent fever puzzled the doctor

perplex adds a suggestion of worry and uncertainty especially about making a necessary decision.

a behavior that perplexed her friends

bewilder stresses a confusion of mind that hampers clear and decisive thinking.

a bewildering number of possibilities

distract implies agitation or uncertainty induced by conflicting preoccupations or interests.

distracted by personal problems

nonplus implies a bafflement that makes orderly planning or deciding impossible.

the remark left us utterly nonplussed

confound implies temporary mental paralysis caused by astonishment or profound abasement.

the tragic news confounded us all

dumbfound suggests intense but momentary confounding; often the idea of astonishment is so stressed that it becomes a near synonym of astound.

was at first too dumbfounded to reply


mystery, problem, enigma, riddle, puzzle mean something which baffles or perplexes.

mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation.

the mystery of the stone monoliths

problem applies to a question or difficulty calling for a solution or causing concern.

problems created by high technology

enigma applies to utterance or behavior that is very difficult to interpret.

his suicide remains an enigma

riddle suggests an enigma or problem involving paradox or apparent contradiction.

the riddle of the reclusive pop star

puzzle applies to an enigma or problem that challenges ingenuity for its solution.

the thief's motives were a puzzle for the police

Examples of puzzle in a Sentence

Verb The cause of the accident has puzzled investigators. it is the cause of the disease that puzzles doctors Noun a book of puns, riddles, and puzzles the final fate of the colonists at Roanoke remains a puzzle to this very day
Recent Examples on the Web
With these unique back teeth, where these animals fit in the timeline of mammal evolution has been puzzling. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 4 Apr. 2024 The proposal was puzzling to Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club. Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic, 28 Mar. 2024 Social media speculation about Catherine erupted after a series of puzzling events that left the public grasping for more information about the princess’s health and happiness. Tatum Hunter, Washington Post, 27 Mar. 2024 These differences and others have puzzled researchers for decades. Sara Novak, Discover Magazine, 20 Mar. 2024 Long conversations ensued between Max and various salesmen, all of them pointing at my legs, puzzled expressions on their faces. Paul Tough, New York Times, 17 Mar. 2024 The giant moon that glowed behind Batiste didn’t quite vibe with the spirit of the song, but the luminous orb was at least eye-catching, if puzzling. Melissa Ruggieri, USA TODAY, 11 Mar. 2024 You could be forgiven for finding the confusion surrounding her absence puzzling. Anna Russell, The New Yorker, 8 Mar. 2024 Researchers are also puzzled by its unique packaging. Sonja Anderson, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Mar. 2024
Note: Most subscribers have some, but not all, of the puzzles that correspond to the following set of solutions for their local newspaper. USA TODAY, 13 Apr. 2024 The whole set is made from high-quality wood, including the wooden puzzle base/tray. Ashley Ziegler, Parents, 13 Apr. 2024 Orchestrating the steady coexistence of residences and industry has become a pressing puzzle for city planners. Jaime Moore-Carrillo, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 11 Apr. 2024 The Day-Date—a serious watch associated with multiple U.S. presidents—morphed into a pastel puzzle with hippy-dippy messages in place of the weekdays and emoticons in place of the date. Allen Farmelo, Robb Report, 10 Apr. 2024 But which of the many, many panels, sweeps, puzzles, and quizzes rank among the best of the best? Tanner Stransky, EW.com, 8 Apr. 2024 Many of them use Russian as their main language, creating a complex cultural puzzle among Vilnius’s different ethnic communities, which are tied together by a common history but divided by mutual historical grievances. Tomas Dapkus, New York Times, 3 Apr. 2024 That appeared to be the best choice since the other teams that tried to breakdance were struggling and the teams that did the puzzle ended up finishing in the top 3. Christopher Kuhagen, Journal Sentinel, 3 Apr. 2024 Think of it as trying to solve a complicated puzzle where various players, including experts, are figuring out how different pieces fit together best. Simi Thambi​, Forbes, 30 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'puzzle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



origin unknown

First Known Use


1582, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of puzzle was in 1582

Dictionary Entries Near puzzle

Cite this Entry

“Puzzle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puzzle. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
puz·​zle ˈpəz-əl How to pronounce puzzle (audio)
puzzled; puzzling -(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce puzzle (audio)
: to confuse the understanding of
: to solve with difficulty or cleverness
puzzler noun


2 of 2 noun
: something that puzzles
: a question, problem, or device designed for testing skill or cleverness

More from Merriam-Webster on puzzle

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